Why 30-Somethings Are the Real Winners of the Y2K Comeback

Sexy, over-the-top, kind of questionable — I'm finally dressing as my childhood self always dreamed I would.

Someone with an early 2000s outfit with a short sleeved fuzzy cardigan, blue jeans, and a black bag
Photo: Valentina Frugiuele/Getty Images

One of my favorite middle-of-the-night kinds of spirals? Comparing how well my childhood expectations of adulthood line up with reality. For instance, I became a fashion editor, not a dolphin trainer, and I don't even own my apartment, so forget a Barbie-like mansion that also includes a Girl Scout cookie factory. But one thing I can say for sure is that most of the time, I dress in a way that would earn my old self's stamp of approval, all thanks to the return of 2000s fashion, aka Y2K-core, which I'm solidly in favor of.

Christina Aguilera in performing in the early 2000s

While I initially cringed at the idea of bringing back the era's most questionable clothing trends, such as poufy bubble hems and dresses over pants, I have to admit that most of them have begun to grow on me. I was only in middle school when we ushered in the year 2000, and while I admired Christina Aguilera's twisted halter tops, I was still stuck in that phase between Limited Too and Wet Seal (RIP!). I'm not exactly sure my parents would have bought me a belly chain if I asked, and while showing off thongs seemed sexy on the red carpet, it would have been embarrassing anywhere I was hanging out (I don't think I even owned one until years later).

Now, at 32, I'm excited to see these trends return to the rotation. I always thought I'd missed out on wearing sparkly, Mariah Carey butterfly tops with jeans and never got to experience risking my life in a mini dress paired with intense platform boots. However, these outfits have become a celebrity favorite once again, and I've been jumping at the chance to finally wear them myself.

Mariah Carey in a sparkly butterfly top in the early 2000s
Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

It's not just the sexy extremes that I'm excited to wear, either finally. Each time I slip on a collared leather jacket — something I've found to be extremely versatile this season — I feel like I'm heading into The Matrix (in the best way). I've also found joy in bringing back old childhood favorites, like logomania purses, kerchiefs, and graphic tees. They add flair and individuality to my look and remind me of logging onto AIM and watching The O.C., allowing me to repeatedly experience that super specific teenage thrill. Only this time, I'm not a child trying on some grownup's style. I'm a grown adult wearing whatever I please.

And that's why Y2K 2.0 is a lot better than the original: I feel way more confident wearing these clothes — especially the sexier styles — than I did the first time around. I'm no longer dressing to impress Richie, the boy I had a crush on my freshman year of high school, and I've realized that I don't need washboard abs to wear a crop top. I'm now more concerned with wearing what makes me feel good, regardless of what's 'cool.' It isn't the world's end if I show up in a poncho instead of the same puffer from The North Face that everyone owns. In fact, that's become the ideal scenario.

So, yeah — maybe I didn't marry Jesse McCartney or star in a Disney Channel Original Movie. But I did discover personal style and now have the option to dress like a pop star daily. All in all, I think things are working out.

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